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Manufacturing Proletarian Memory in the City 
of Har'kov from 1905 to 1917, 1918 and 1927 
by Martin Kraemer Liehn, PhD, Granada 


Manufacturing memory is not in all cases a 
process of manipulating for the sake of 
continuing class hegemony. In the case of 
Har'kov factory workers, 1905-1927, 
manufacturing jointly to make a living curiously 
coincided with them assembling a highly 
combative set of active memory in class 
conflict within and around their factories. 
Instead of following the successive attempts 
by different parties to high-jack this militant 
legacy, the essay rather aims at retracing the 
development of material conditions allowing 
for the autonomous reproduction of proletarian 
memory in the townscape of Har'kov 
throughout an all-encompassing series of 
dramatic defeats and unexpected victories 
during the 22 years under scrutiny. 

In the course of inquiry, collective memory 
reveals to be redetectable only on a higher 
and thus much more risky level of generic 
abstraction compared to more materialist 
analytic categories, such as 
- class-specific conditioning for communication 

and discontinuity in communication, 

- materially industrial production in social 
relations of unequal dependence 

- and subsequent class-segregated urban 
reproduction. The specific arrangements 
culminating in the agency of working-class 
street corner society prove thus vital for the 
formation and reproduction of active social 
memory. They were taken up by various 
institutional experiments created either by or 
for working class communication, such as 

- factory and workers' club canteens, in some 
cases constituting a veritable greenhouse of 

- workers' self-governing assemblies and 
committees exerting a higher degree of control 
on parliamentarist oblivion than simple 
recalling of their delegates foresaw, 

- and finally the dramatic oral testimonies of an 
oppositional steel worker and a Jewish 
working class writer in the moment of a first 
and decisive defeat of Soviet Har'kov on 25 th 
of March 1918. 

"The past can be seized only as an 
image which flashes up at the instant 
when it can be recognized and is never 
seen again. "The truth will not run away 
from us:" in the historical outlook of 
historicism these words of Gottfried 
Keller mark the exact point where 
historical materialism cuts through 

historicism. For every image of the past 
that is not recognized by the present as 
one of its own concerns threatens to 
disappear irretrievably." 
5 th thesis "On the Concept of History" by 
Walter Benjamin, written down just 
before fleeing from besieged Paris 
1940 1 . 


Producing memory is a process of life work 
implying highly complex social faculties. Such 
faculties are meaningless if they are not 
shared. As long as a society defines its 
productive capacities by division of class, the 
process of manufacturing memory will tend to 
reproduce a herd of independent minds. 2 But 
as free association of free memories becomes 
a material possibility, it is bound to happen 
sooner or later. No authoritative demeanour of 
any whatever professional historian can 
preclude such a process of uncontrollable 
social creativity. Just as the process of 
manufacturing consent 3 in general, memory 
that matters under class rule is earmarked by 
unequal access to resources in the first place. 
Throughout the process, we can discern a 
hierarchical division of work. The mass 
communication of its outcome undergoes a 
sharp control "for essential benchmarks of 

Academic quality". What happens when some 
of these limits are reversed? What becomes of 
a city's east-side 4 memory when the west-side 
suddenly leaves its urban strongholds to be 
retaken only later by a dubious lot of self-made 
men pretending to be the successors of 
privilege historically done away with a century 

Characteristically enough, the role of 
historians in modern Bourgeois societies has 
hardly moved beyond its artisan egg-shells. 
Quite humiliatingly, it has evolved surprisingly 
little since its early renaissance sponsors once 
hewed out a niche for it. 5 They needed a sting 
among the monstrous glacier of theologically 
deterministic memory reproduction confirming 
the old order of oppression. They rather got it 
from commerce and firearms. Clio remained a 
minor muse. Today as in the times of 
Machiavelli, even the most cutting-edge 
Bourgeois historian still works in a somewhat 
archaic isolation. She and he cultivate a set of 
atavistically individualistic research rituals. 
Their socially isolated memory work has to 
poker for doubtful favours on a saturated 
vanity fair. If their alchemist charlatanry does 
not sell, they are to return into the service of 
mere scholastic reproduction. To put it mildly, 
such an unappetising role model suggests that 
our work might actually be little short of 
superfluous for the essential reproduction of 

memory to keep class society going forward. 
Looking backward might have become our 
work-related obsession. But living memory, 
memory that matters, is made to help looking 
forward. It is not bound to remain as plump 
and petty-bourgeois with the help of imported 
polyester as we encounter it today on 
Ukrainian market places. The capricious 
artefact of popular memorising happens to 
change daily in the dialectical bonfire of 
material interest clashing in public spaces. 
Socially relevant public memory has been 
witnessed to change by the hour in times of 
historical progress when the commodity trap 
suddenly fails to capture the fulminate faculties 
of modern minds. Upper-class manufacturing 
of public memory can never reach the 
potential power of popular amalgamation 
based on real material needs. 6 The ultimate 
check of modern popular memory is the 
gunpoint. And it remains one of the few 
privileges of historians to know how limited 
such a check might prove once the 
contradictions between subversive and 
rebellious memory strings have ripened to 
change the course of events. 

So do we really have to fill our modest niche 
with elegies problematising memory itself to 
retain at least one last problem we can muse 
about freely? Currently, for every published 
combination of the analytic terms "historical 

memory" and "class society" google is able to 
detect a tenfold quantity combining the idea of 
"historical memory" with the clumsy and 
analytically insincere notion of "ethnic identity". 
Even if you set out otherwise, your material 
interest might by now be vested thoroughly 
among the nine out of ten. "Where do you 
think you are?" ask the protagonists in Georgi 
Derluguian's narration on class war in social 
memory in the Northern Caucasus highlands, 
" a folk dance competition?" 7 Derluguian's 
critical faculties amalgamate a rare 
combination: trained in glasnost Soviet 
privilege, he combines a taste for empiric 
contradictions derived from African field- 
studies with some methodological 
achievements British Academic Marxism and a 
posh reverence for bold French perspective 
vested in the "Annales" school. The outcome 
proves sellable as ordinary US-American fast- 
food, supplying e.g. the right-wing fox channel 
with commodity expertism on Caucasian 
memory during those notorious 7-seconds 
intervals you are allowed to talk on US TV- 
formats before being cut. 

Leaving the realm of the anecdotic in 
contemporary East-West-Marxism we are well 
advised to mind the actual place of empirically 
well-informed memory in the spaces defined 
by transcontinental class conflict. Akram 
Fouad Khater does this with remarkable 

accuracy for the case of women migrants from 
Libanon to the Americas and back during the 
very years surveyed by this essay. 8 In the 
course of conflictuous events, the female 
protagonists of his manifold narrative 
eventually become a part of the Western 
Christian middle classes and thus they have 
their part in shaping the outcome of the 20th 
century. 9 This however, had been by no 
means predetermined, as the author points out 
slyly. Quite to the contrary, her evidence puts 
material working conditions and their 
biography-forming effects on memory first. 
Notions of class-bound reproduction of 
individual memory for agency in the social 
sphere come in to take us a step further. 
Looking back on the secondary checks on 
memory, we perceive competing concepts of 
nation, sexualised role models, religiosity in a 
secularised context of exploitation and the 
related monstrous collective pronoun 
"ethnicity" melt down curiously. They seem 
downsize to what they have actually been for 
the lives of the protagonists under scrutiny: 
mere matrixes of almost ludicrous 
transparency, adaptable to whatever the 
material course of class and gender struggle 
forced upon their life choices. Whether a 
woman can or cannot sustain homosocial ties 
of friendship outside her house is of crucial 
importance for the class-model she is likely to 
assimilate. In a similar motion towards the 

actual field of conflict and memory- 
consolidation, a Denver-based team of 
anthropologically informed Archaeologists has 
taken to excavate the material remains of the 
Ludlow battles in South Colorado class wars of 
the years 1913 and 1914. Curiously enough, 
deep in the US-American mid-west, digging up 
the bones and bullets of a long-ago working- 
class forming battle is not only a tax-financed 
pioneer research activity. Simultaneously, it 
has served as a learning ground for already 
several generations of history teachers 
graduating in Denver. What is state of the arts 
in the once Wild West is an outright no-go 
area within the Wild East newly recreated on 
the Third-World ruins of a once "Second" 
civilisation. Actually, the shooting on the 
goldfields at the banks of the Russian river 
Lena, far-east of Siberia, preceeded the 
Rockefeller murders in Colorado by some 
crucial months in a very similar setting. In 1917 
memories of Har'kov working-class activists, 
this "Len'ski obstrel" was a most suggestive 
short-cut to their autumn 1905 experience. To 
be precise, the conflict in Colorado helped to 
check the deterioration of US-Mid West 
manual workers' wages during some years 
following their legalised shooting in 1914. On 
quite another scale, the violent industrial 
conflict of 1912 in the parallel tent towns of the 
Russian Far East spurred an almagamation of 
public memory in Har'kov and similar hot-spots 

of Russian industrial cosmopolitism that 
changed the course of world history in the 20th 
century. So, maybe the inquiry into memories 
contrary to current class rule is feasible only in 
cases of marginal importance? Let us probe 
the limits of a contrary motion, not just claim a 
bigger part of the cake but go for the whole 
damned bakery instead. 

Why Har'kov, can there be a critical mass of 
cosmopolitan working-class memory in a 
forlorn provincial town among Ukrainian 

In 1912 just as in 2009, returning back to 
Europe from the Russian Far East, we can 
choose between two main destinations in the 
neat railway station of Vladivostok: either you 
go North in Europe, ie. take the train to 
Moscow, or you go South, ie. take the train to 
Har'kov. Choosing Har'kov 6 years ago, I was 
confident to be able to relate my reading of 
working-class records with that of other 
cityscapes in the periphery of the October 
Revolution throughout the 20 th century: Prague 
and Havana. 

The city of Har'kov in 1905 is the capital of a 
minor southern province. But it witnesses a 
literally breathless and discontinued industrial 
growth. This remarkable dynamic and the 

legacy of a strong class-based stance in the 
Civil Wars following 1905-1927 enabled the 
cityscape to fulfil the function of a thriving 
avant-garde capital for the whole of Soviet 
Ukraine until 1934. Already with the first 
upsurge of labour unrest around 1899, the civil 
industrial complex of Har'kov makes up a 
significant knot in the transcontinental network 
of Russian metropolis streching from Lodz 
throughout Siberia right to the Pacific coast, 
the location of a spectacular defeat of Har'kov 
conscripts and Har'kov weaponry during the 
Russan-Japanese War. Following the Crimean 
invasion of the 1850s, the state-sponsored 
artificial greenhouse conditions for fostering 
most advanced techniques of capitalist 
production on a global scale constitute an 
important metropolitan advantage for the town 
in a key position to the Southern periphery. 
But it is never Har'kov alone, it is its modest 
role in an unprecedented metropolitan network 
of communication preying on Russian 
backwaters that constitutes the making of its 
militant working class memory. Linked by 
intense railway communication of goods and 
people, these cities reinforce their industrialist 
grip on the vast rural backwaters stretching in- 
between them. The ruling establishment had 
chosen to nourish a violent industrial 
revolution to contain social revolution. As 
social unrest continued in the countryside with 
a distinct patriarchal pattern, the urban 


workforce increasingly learnt to see their task 
in associating to combine both social and 
industrial revolution. Ironically enough, the 
administrative measures to eliminate such 
visionary agency from the strategic 
townscapes of the boom and its long drawn- 
out crash from 1905-1917 actually contributed 
substantially to implant a social knowledge 
about the possible dividend of such 
combination within Har'kov working-class 
realities. Factory inspectors were installed 
following the British blue-print to contain unrest 
and accord the factory regime with state 
paternalism. But soon, the makers of the tools 
learnt to use this public institution as a pretext 
to make their production realities an issue of 
public argument. Categorical death threats 
and their long-drown out execution by 
transporting to Siberia were meant to shut 
down the toiling folk in their traditional ghetto 
within feudal society. But heeding to similar 
dialectics, the nationwide 
transportation/deportation regime supply chain 
needed Har'kov as an important transitory post 
before further forced resettlement to Siberia. 
Ironically enough, several generations of 
working-class organising drives were thus 
brought in by repressive measures from 
industrial hotspots in the West and the 
industrial capitals of Petersburg and Moscow, 
where discussions and organisational memory 
were in a notably higher state of alertness than 


in Har'kov, the South-western edge of the 
"Russian depth (glub Rossij)". 

Going through the more than 1000 life 
histories of workers from the late 19 th century 
collected in Har'kov archives, we find that a 
major fraction of the initially rural ail-Russian 
exodus reached Har'kov after suffering hunger 
and homelessness in other related towns 
monopolising the profits of the giant railway 
spider net, which Nekrassov precisely 
recorded to have one major entrepreneur: 
"Tsar golod" - socially engineered hunger. It 
was characteristically heavy industry, iron 
reprocessing and machine building, which 
constituted the crystallisation of Har'kov's 
workforce and its precarious access to giant 
short-term concentrations of purchasing 
power. Before getting intrigued by the words of 
memoirs, which come always belated, we 
have to mind the payrolls of the Har'kov 
industrial estates. They are more eloquent 
about kinship ties, installing cousins and 
fellow-villagers in a work gang. There, we find 
the neatly arithmetic memorials of the general 
top-down stoppage on wages for a regime of 
arbitrary chicane. Each rouble less a week has 
a direct set-back on the bread-ration, the 
fragile back-bone of the derelict rural family 
economies stapled on top of one another in 
the dirty gold rush shanty townships on the 
Har'kov east-side along the Moscow 


prospectus. Deficiencies in complex 
carbohydrates are made up by sugar infusion. 
Living in post-perestroika working-class 
districts for this research, I have been able to 
witness the nauseatingly functional re- 
emergence of a quick deal of sugary water a 
day instead of any substantial food. Before 
reaching the mess of middle-class 
administered words, working-class memory is 
a system of knowing how to survive with 
dignity where middle-class socialisation 
ultimately fails. Quite characteristically, an 
older boom of sugar industrialization in the 
region, benefiting from the infamously 
concentrated property structure of fertile land, 
had enforced a first urban segregation spurred 
by Har'kovski Saharny Zavod. Soon 
afterwards, manufacturing of locomotives 
(HPZ - after socialisation called 
"International"), agricultural machinery 
(Gelferich-Sade - after the revolution "hammer 
and sickle, Sierp i Molot") and adjacent 
branches (Printing, Chemical industry) had 
settled into the same area. Thus Petrinski 
rajon and its adjacent Zuravlevski favelas 
became the hotspots of proletarian life in town 
for everyone who could not afford to move 
elsewhere. But being poor and being 
miserable is a matter of considerable 
difference in working class culture. So, when 
the Petrinski share in purchasing power within 
the cities economy rises following the crucial 


strike waves of 1916 the mode of living like the 
mode of production changes only by nuances 
until 1927. The material culture of these 
heavily policed townships within a town would 
remain pretty constant from 1905 to 1927. 
Going through the minute statistics of working 
class homes, preserved down to the laborious 
detail recorded by thousands of pages of 
accurate pencil notes compiled in the town's 
statistical institutes, we can encounter 
precious bits of working class memory. In 
contrast to the collection of written working- 
class memory, these dry notes appear 
minimally streamlined to fit into written 
Russian. Reconstructing memory, we have to 
keep in mind that actually until 1917 written 
Russian was a definite middle-class and upper 
class domain. And the following decade saw 
more heroic effort than tangible achievement 
to shift this imbalance. From these minute and 
dry numerical notes though, we know, that 
Petrinski working class homes around 1927 
were equipped in a definitely more than rural 
notion of simplicity. The number of bedsteads 
for example, suggests that the township's 
working class was sleeping at average with 
more than three persons in one bed. The beds 
themselves were often bought some 20 years 
back with the present owners notoriously 
remembering their precise purchase value and 
the price they would fetch for them two 
decades later on a home sale. Although we 


encounter some books, sometimes of a 
religious character, icons of some value in 
some homes, the most central item of a 
working class household actually seems to be 
the equipment with spoons. Far from having 
always one spoon for one eater, some happen 
to be of iron, very rarely we find a more 
expensive extravagancy, silver spoons pop out 
of the accounts as something truly 
exceptional. Still in the year 1927 some 
working-class families in the heart of Har'kov 
eat exclusively with self-made wooden 
spoons, not failing to detail the potential resale 
value of each one of them. We are lucky to 
have this data memory associated to a much 
larger interest in Har'kov working people 
conditions and priorities. Early Soviet statistics 
were not the kind of backward museum 
memory our 2009 senses curiously reveal to 
be trained suppose in the spoon counting 
business. Statistics were the avant-garde of 
economic planning, the experimental 
battlefield of subjective and objective needs. 
Har'kov proletarians had few new books at 
home, because they were using a quickly 
expanding library system on a time-scale 
unparalleled by current reading statistics. By 
1927, Har'kov workers tended to devoted 
more time and attention than to their domestic 
spoon collection to the live on the street 
corner 10 and its fashionable extension in 
thriving workers' clubs, playing amateur 


theatre, eating out in canteens, reading 
newspapers and journals and reacting to their 
interactive proposals. The later had the 
notable effect of constituting the all-Soviet 
fame of Har'kov' s writing workers' community 
which convinced Majakovski to pay a 
prominent visit to the scene. Though, this 
former higher-class domain is being taken by 
storm as a result of successive alphabetisation 
campaigns sweeping over Petrinski back- 
yards, there are other memories necessary 
before words begin to take a meaning of 
material interest. Actually, the most expensive 
and long-living article besides the bedsteads 
are the fur winter dressings to support the 
peaks of hefty Har'kov winter frosts lowering 
temperatures down to a minimum of 35,6 
degrees minus with a climatic January 
average of -5,7. In some homes we find 
investment sums related to home industry, 
such as a sewing machine. Both are also a 
means of prolonging the scope of street corner 
life throughout the year. But this is a rare case. 
When we speak about manufacturing 
proletarian memory in this contribution, we 
have quite a distinct notion of material culture 
linked with proletarian life. Har'kov proletarians 
on the eve of communism are expropriated 
peasants, subsisting in almost empty, crowded 
flats in comparatively small families. They 
have a record mortality in relation to European 
average. They spend their austere life working 


and - no matter whether the little borrowed 
fortune of a sewing machine locates this work 
at home or not - they have to sell their labour 
for filling their stomachs and dressing their 
children against the winter cold. They have to 
earn on a daily basis, otherwise, they suffering 
is beyond words. To be precise, the fact, that 
they have a family background in the 
countryside does not alleviate the bitter 
economic relation of being by fact expropriated 
from a share in the most basic and most 
necessary, i.e. agricultural productivity. As 
statistics sum it up neatly, there is hardly ever 
more than a month's wage in a working-class 
household. So, migration, starting anew with 
minimal money and preferably during summer 
months starting with no shelter at all is 
constitutive part proletarian life memory. The 
fact that the majority of the 30000 Har'kov 
industrial workers do not leave the town 
despite 5 changes of frontline during Civil War, 
forced deindustrialization and industrialisation 
in adjacent parts of the country plus new 
prospects in small-holder agriculture reinforced 
by compromises of urban workers' power with 
rural patriarchal subsistence is indicative of an 
integrative power beyond middle-class 
household strategy. Combined with pulling 
factors is a prolonged crisis of war-related 
heavy industry 1905-1927. Resisting on such 
a scale to push and pull factors is a strong 
indication that something else kept Har'kov 


workers in Har'kov. This something can 
obviously not be found in their homes, as in 
middle-class districts of the rapidly 
transforming townscape. Minding that every 
average working-class bed has more than 3 
interested bodies, actually any cemetery of the 
town seems more attractive eg. for having sex 
given the strongly normative prohibitionism of 
a secularized, newly atheist orthodox culture, 
teaching socialising to be centered around 
mono-hetero-sexuality founding no matter how 
contradictory nucleus families. As cemeteries 
helped out in some cases, but certainly not in 
all, Har'kov working class social life plunged 
itself on the street-corners, on adjacent steppe 
or park landscapes, river-banks, improvised 
garden plots whenever the seasons 
temperatures would allow to socialise 
somehow more freely. In the long winters, the 
street-corner society of summertime would 
recreate street-corners under shabby roofs. 
One option were the notorious pubs, who were 
until the onslaught of revolutionary 
abolitionism strictly organized to exercise the 
Tsar's business of cultivating popular 
alcoholism with industrial brutality for easy 
imperial revenue. All other alternatives were 
highly precarious. In the works, every 
movement was supervised, a police 
detachment was present on every factory site, 
militarily supervising e.g. access to telephones 
and the strategic acoustic factory alarm 


system. We have a painstaking description of 
the former Lithuanian-Byelorussian peasant 
Pokko 11 at work on a metal rotary workplace in 
wartime Har'kov. During the whole of his long 
workday, he would suffer sweat and panic 
attacks for carrying a bunch of anti-war-leaflets 
under his work coat to be dealt out secretively 
in unwatched moments on the toilet or in 
moments of confusion going through the 
collective dressing-room. At his workplace, 
however, he was constantly aware to be 
watched, acutely fearing that one could 
discern the paper moving suspiciously in front 
of his stomach. Additionally, he was most 
embarrassed for the treacherous movements 
of his hand to his stomach to adjust the bunch 
once in a while. So, free association of free 
individuals, an essential precondition for 
creating communist agency, Marx had 
formulated before the Crimean Wars, was 
possible at the factory only after a commonly 
shared breakthrough, such as in October 
1905, spring 1915 until April 1918, November 
1918-June 1919, January 1920 and the 
following months. The violence of state 
repression deployed in Har'kov factories 1905 
taught that such association of freed will at the 
workplace would have to be hidden again after 
each new defeat of workplace empowerment. 
Under autocracy and its direct heirs, the 
German-Ukrainian occupants of 1918 and the 
white terror regime in the town of 1919 (the 


only firing squats to extend executions to 
proletarian children suspected of working for 
the other side in Civil War), workplace 
association was ended with an aprupt forced 
entrance of military brutality. Characteristically, 
autonomous moving around and socializing at 
the factories started gradually, tentatively and 
was interrupted with a violent blow. In the 
Gelferikh-Sade works, workers took the 
courage to occupy the factory in the canteen, 
a place of comparatively freer movement 
fought for in longstanding hidden battles with 
management before. This move was 
counteracted 12 not with rifle but with artillery 
fire some hours later. Execution 
characteristically started on the place before 
the factory on those workers who had resigned 
from the confrontation with armed capital after 
the first call to surrender back the production 
site. The photograph of the factory portal of 
Gelferikh-Sade played a key role in workers 
memory and its remanufacturing during two 
decades to come: a neoconservative work of 
imperial architecture symbolically subduing the 
workforce to the force of organizing will of the 
propertied class - destroyed by the very 
artillery of this class interest. The message of 
this photo was stronger than hundreds of 
leaflets who - though elaborated and 
distributed risking death or its Siberian 
derivates - could be understood by only a few. 
Even the later literal shooting star, the only 


one of 1050 working class activists who, 
inspired by Maksim Gorky's initiative to 
compile the history of factories (IFZ) could 
write an eloquent autobiography of 180 
instead of the Har'kov average of bring one 
and a half pages of comprehensive exercise 
for the party archive - had enormous trouble 
with radical leaflets. Though, he could divine 
somehow that when the students used the 
wording autocrat (samoderzhaviec) they 
meant the Tsar, 13 he was completely lost with 
the remaining content and only pretended to 
have read the stuff when asked by the fellow- 
worker who had supplied him. The photo of 
1905 instead instructed everyone, 
analphabetic, half-literate or advanced learner, 
that the pretension by the moneyed class to 
possess the absolute monopoly to organize 
the progress of metropolitan industrialism was 
broken by their own grip to power. Those who 
had paid for the factory portal to stamp on 
every workers mind, that entering - as 
formerly entering a church - they are no 
longer free to associate and exercise their 
bodies and minds as they could were the 
same who had inspired the destruction of this 
symbol of their will-power. 

What happened to the reproduction of 
proletarian memory was preceded by a similar 
conversion in the Communist party structures 
as soon as spring 1924. The drive to join the 


party, monopolist of social initiative in around 
Har'kov factories as secret police reports 
which were to report disturbances in the first 
place, document. Workers parties fostering 
bourgeois class interest were defeated in 
Har'kov discussions epitomized by the arena 
of the city's workers council. On the matters of 
socializing houses, banks and industry in early 
spring 1918 the initiative of class interest were 
victorious. This political hegemony continued 
whenever the two interventionist armies and 
their military policing were kicked out of the 
city. Hegemony means collaboration of the 
subdued. It is different from domination. 
Hegemony structures memory according to a 
leading tune, does not exclude polyphonic 
understanding. Domination works with not on 
memory but against memory, it induces pain 
and counter-memories which pretend for a 
completely new arrangement in the future. The 
post-Civil War society of Har'kov was a society 
of working class hegemony, though the 
workers took minority parts in Bolshevik party 
life. There were Menshevik leaflets here and 
there, but not the dynamics of an explosion 
repressed as following August 1915. The 
recently hyped protocols of the 
Upolnomochenny movement are a dubious 
counter indication. None of the freshly 
conversed bourgeois Russian historians 
featuring these papers can determined how 
their convergence in 1918 was financed, why 


they were so curiously lacking in social 
dynamic except for promoting some well- 
known Men'shevik front-men and why even 
ordinary street marches could exclude their 
sloganism with such an experienced and 
informed hostility. The Upelnomochenny 
debate 14 of recent years is a purposefully 
sponsored effort of agenda setting, occupying 
the memory space of escalating class conflict 
with Social Democrat representations - an 
enterprise which collapsed in reality in 
Menshevik Georgia and its anti-revolutionary 
outlets co-opting workers voices to office 
lobbying work for a re-entry of Menshevik 
cadres into Soviet decision making after their 
triple defeat in fact, supporting the first World 
War mobilization and its follow-up in the 
misfortunate Kerensky offensive ( 

), opposing the Brest 
peace treaty (interestingly enough, Trotsky 
continued his Mozhfrakcja stance at the very 
negociation table proposing neither war nor 
peace, later he would purposeful confuse the 
SR-term maximalist with his own fraction 
trouble in his memories from October to Brest 
Litovsk). Cross reading party and working- 
class memories we come to a crucial question 
which has considerable significance for the 
conditions of elaborating, sorting and 
preserving these documents in the following. 
Was the Russian Revolution in all its depth 
carried out by a party, several parties or a 


movement. The answer could actually be, that 
it was made by all three opposing forces: one 
party, a lot of parties and a movement. With 
such an elusive answer in sight, the question 
might well be worth more analysis than its 
response. So we try to subdivide it. The 
question of locating the political initiative in 
one party or several parties marks a dialectical 
field of hilarious tension. But labels in political 
strive occult the dynamics of individual interest 
and group interest messed up (often 
purposefully) by representative politics. The 
notion of movement seems more adequate to 
account for the material structures and flows 
needed to turn a class relation upside down. In 
the crucial moths starting with the breaking of 
silence ignited by spectacular defeats on the 
Polish frontline in August 1915, worker 
communication tends to bring forward 
grievances and organizational initiative which 
lead in the ultimate consequence to a new 
culture of factory assembly. These assemblies 
acquire hegemony over factory dynamics until 
at last the very front line is tied to the breath of 
industrial conflicts. At first strikes oscillate 
between economic and political demands. 
There is other trouble giving pretext to 
assemble and debate. To make workers pay 
for health insurance (Bolnichnykh kas) there 
has to be some representation, at least 
symbolically. So the authocraty has to allow a 
certain process, which is painstakingly 


followed by selective arrests. Arrests cannot 
finish a culture of workers meeting, but they 
can cripple the efficiency of committee work. 
This is a central part of workers taking power 
and the point where party politics enter, even if 
the party is following Anarchist lines of 
organization as the Anarcho-Communists, a 
formation which retained its legality until 1923 
and could amalgamate many SR activists who 
would not want to follow the officialist left wing 
merging into the Bolshevik party. So, the very 
essence of movement, i.e. factory, living 
quarter and garrison committee work is 
permeated by party dealings. When we read 
accounts of working class activists, the idea of 
party seems very diffuse to say the least. 
There are affinity groups forged both in living 
quarters and at work. These affinity groups 
comprise Mensheviks in a majority of 
Bolsheviks and vice-versa when both fractions 
are already ferociously split on a national level 
of representation as in the post 1912 duma. 
Characteristically, the later Bolshevik Pokko, 
first Secretary of the Communist party in the 
strategic Petrinski working class rayon cannot 
even make up for many years of his 
autobiography whether he was in the Social 
Revolutionary (SR) or Social Democrat (SD) 
party. He was politically active within the 
possibilities of his increasingly self-educated 
consciousness. But his affinity groups (3-20), 
the best and still vulnerable form to protect 


against Police infiltration, worked much more 
as circles of local friends than as a party 
machinery. There were some elements 
adopted from party incursions, i.e. The 
exchange of comrades who got under police 
pressure from one town to another, contacting 
similar circles in different locations. But the 
genuine mechanics of party works are absent 
from working class shop floor politics. 
Exclusion for strategic division is unthinkable. 
The only reason to exclude a comrade from 
sharing confidence is evidently her or his 
compromises with the existing class rule and 
its policing techniques. There is a different 
rationale of exclusion active in working class 
activists' memories. Accounting for 30 years of 
his life, Pokko e.g. mentions only once that he 
has a wife (when comrades help her destroy 
papers on health insurance after an arrest in 
the factory, he later bemoans the loss of 
documentation when it turns out that inner- 
factory policing is unwilling to extend the 
accusation to civil prosecution). It is this kind of 
organizational history, reducing political 
understanding to a social mechanics strangely 
akin to the factory processes, which marks 
most of the dreariness, boredom and 
limitations which are so characteristic of later 
Soviet historical compilations allowed for 
public use. There is no life, no sex, no pet- 
keeping, no pissing on your neighbours 
flowers in these accounts. They are a lie. 


Every account of our memory is potentially a 
lie. The only certainty we have is death, so the 
obsession for body count in the revisionist 
retreat battles of social thought during the last 
two decades are but a trueist exaggeration 
hiding the utter confusion after the unfriendly 
take-over of Soviet acquisitions by Capitalist 
liquidators. So the truism of self-righteous 
body count is the formula of blurring popular 
memory to absurdity. In a purposeful 
economic crash reducing what was once 
second world to third world misery, there is 
only one last repressive measure able to 
create further sensation. Where all measures 
of economic class warfare are well known only 
to rob you of your life can yet make a 
difference. So the defamation of historic 
Socialism in Har'kov does not dwell upon the 
notorious shortcomings in material 
empowerment, but quite to the contrary in the 
out-rage, that Soviet policing took over some 
of the techniques of their opponents on the 
fronts of the most bloody Civil War ever set up 
in European history. No doubt, the almost 
tsarist conservatism of post-1923 Soviet 
political policing had deplorable effects on 
working-class empowerment, but it is certainly 
not the key feature to characterise the epoch. 
The reductionist body count business has 
become the bread-winning service of many 
former historians. Failing to become organic 
intellectuals in the recovery process of popular 


memory, they sought to join the ranks of 
officialdom (chinovnictvo) to administer state 
memory preaching. Since the deception of the 
so-called "orange revolution", their main 
campaign has hooked on the topic of 
discontinued changes in Ukrainian agriculture 
("holodomor"). 15 

Quite interestingly, after the memory ventures 
of 1927 this picture disappeared. Now, the 
new management who had managed to slip 
into the authoritarian roles of the old, though 
working for a different profit redistribution 
scheme (which e.g. Victor Serge was to 
respect as revolutionary in essence even after 
the 1936 Moscow trials). Having marked the 
beginning of our time focus, we can delimit its 
end, 22 years later. Before diving into the bulk 
of memory generating social changes in- 
between, we are well advised to set the 
accounts straight for the show-down of 
proletarian hegemony around 1927. The 10 th 
anniversary of the October uprising 1917, a 
joint Bolshevik, Anarchist and SR-maximalist 
effort of the time, is but an arbitrary date. The 
spectacular level of workers power in Har'kov 
collapsed in March 1918 already anticipating 
the advancement of the German invasion 
onto the townscape. This was even before 
Moscow directives could hamper the power 
exercised by the factory councils and its 
federation with the soldier councils at city 


level. In fact as soon as December 1917 this 
hot-spot of class-based activity with its 500 
delegates mandated and possibly recalled at 
any time by workshops and garrisons 
maintained a new type of two-power situation 
parallel to the previous two-power system in 
Har'kov with the Kerensky government and 
Soviet empowerment, the Petrograd 
Conversions of factory committees, Soviet 
delegates, trade unions and the pretension of 
the Kiev rada to settle separately with the 
attacking German-Austrian forces. By 1927, 
the factory committees persisting as an organ 
of cooperationist mobilization were little less 
than a caricature of their assumption to 
reorganize social relations in 1917, 1918 into a 
Communist form of production and distribution. 
Yet the memory of working class victories was 
alive and active in memory as never before. In 
his half-official journal Lef (novy lef_) 
Majakovski remembers his 10 year odyssey 
fighting the old academism in the new republic 
in transition towards communism. He includes 
a memory piece from the Pacific coast and 
cultural work for workers' hegemony in 
Vladivostok. He, as many more communist 
activists going in the millions, do their best for 
this 10 th anniversary. Their written language 
has evolved to reflect the spoken language of 
20 years of revolt and alternative organization. 
In Har'kov, hilarious evening meetings are 
organized to record stenographically the 


positively uncensored debates of Petrin'ski 
street-corner society about their own 
empowerment fought out prominently in the 
city centre now. The protocols of these 
meeting display a hilarious taste for 
contradictions and the dialectics akin to class 
strive. In 1927, a more impressive and more 
inclusive factory portal was built in Har'kov for 
the tractor works. The tractor works were a 
direct product of the 5-year-plan. But they 
could not be realized without mobilizing the 
entire proletarian work-skill and working 
memory of the cityscape. It was the tractor 
works of the then Ukrainian capital which was 
to ignite the phantasmagorical dream of 
industrializing the countryside. This dream had 
been failing already with hardly less sacrifice 
under bourgeois auspices, with the sugar 
boom, and was failing again. Simultaneously, 
to the Ukrainean steppes, the steppes of the 
American Mid-West were cleared of petty 
patriarchal small-holders, by the help of new- 
scale machinery. 16 The hunger marches to 
Har'kov later on and simultaneously from the 
Mid-West to California were of a global 
making. The difference is a product of 
manufacturing memory from above. In Ukraine 
the projected " p" (a supposedly 

planned mass hunger death) gets quite a 
different accent when telling the story of 
hunger marchers from the Midwest to 
California. Under communism agricultural 


restructuring is planned hunger, under 
Capitalism technically the same move, yet with 
a worse social situation of the workforce 
operating the new bigger farm units, is the 
beginning of new hopes for the tormented 
families in California. The issue of structural 
mortality is much more complex than simple 
body count can capture, especially in a 
general setting where life-expectancy is on the 
rise such as in the USA and SU of the 1930s. 
This is no apology for any individual death due 
to agricultural change. There cannot be any 
sense made out of death as a result of 
structural violence. Har'kov though, was in a 
certain sense though the California of the 
Ukrainian Mid-West. But this meant, that 
another time, the cityscapes working-class 
memory, the ferment of social progress - most 
of it only promised not fulfilled yet, was 
deluded with the raw material of a last big 
wave of rural immigration to the town. In this 
remixing and settling of emigrational unrest 
into social unrest, a decisive coup could be 
made against the sense of industrial workers' 
autonomy which had made the town big and 
important, the Ukrainian capital and the focus 
of industrializing rural work relations as well. 
By 1934, the capital function was transferred 
to Kiev. The extraordinary memory 
achievements produced in the Gorki-IFZ 
initiative during the same year were buried in a 
remake of the 1924 and 1927ff anti-Trotskyite 


cleansings, getting clumsier and more 
schematic every time. What had happened to 
proletarian memory then? In a remarkable 
dialectical text on observation compiled in 
these years Bert Brecht had juxtaposed two 
ways of driving a car. 17 Not the car was a 
novelty at the end of our time-span under 
scrutiny but traffic jams. There are drivers who 
are anxious about their own progressing. They 
try to find loop-holes to pass and are set back 
by every misfortune to their individual 
progress. But this mode of driving could be 
alternated by another perspective, because 
there are drivers who manage to develop an 
empathy with the whole of the movement. 
They enjoy the flowing of traffic and see 
themselves as just a part of it. Har'kov 
proletarians had been true to their fighting 
memory of 1905 in the serious clashed 1915 
to 1927 for social control of production and a 
society based on working class social 
qualities. They proved able stakeholders for 
their urban working class interests. In his book 
on the Russian revolution scandalizing 
bourgeois Poland for its daring stance on 
working class interests but leaving Soviet 
readers rather disappointed as used to other 
qualities of literary memory on their revolution, 
Zeromski 18 depicts a dynamic image of 
Har'kov working class activists during the first 
years of Soviet rule in the determination of 
workers' delegates, driving through the 


cityscape. Yet this drive was motivated by a 
much larger understanding. It was 
empathically anticipating a worldwide 
movement. When as a result of more 
systematic planning the rural working 
biographies of a later generation took again 
majority in the cityscape, those, whose urban 
socialization as industrial workers had begun 
some 50 years before and was thus replied 
(nasyshcheny) with memory of industrial 
conflict, displayed to a much greater extent 
than they could allow themselves take to the 
attitude of the second driver in Brecht's 
portrait. They went on with the general move 
towards an egalitarian society with 
unprecedented affluence, letting rural 
subordination rituals imported to the town from 
freshly liquidated patriarchal relations take 
advantage, fill the open space, created by their 
fights. In a certain way, they had invited their 
relatives to the urban spaces they had fought 
to open. The two types of memory co-existed. 
Complementary, they form the dialectical 
legacy contained in the memory of Har'kov 
working class empowerment. 

The weaponry of continued class rule in 
Imperial Germany, its Gajdamak folk dance 
competition dominated Har'kov from April- 
November 1918, and Imperial England, its 
heavily entente-sponsored Dejnekinshhina 
kept the working-class town in check from 


summer 1919 to January 1920, had incurred 
crucial investment failures to keep Har'kov out 
of Soviet rule. Facing the formation of a 
"Second World", the German and British high 
commands of old world class rule risked and 
lost a lot to hew out this southern pillar of new 
industrial relations and make it part of their 
Third World, the global south, basically 
subsisting under their combined control until 
today. Astonishingly enough, they failed to 
yield direct profit on these investments for 
about 70 years. But the socially competent 
memory of making possible the 1917 working 
class hegemony of Har'kov, flattened into 
something reminiscent to oblivion much 

As any pioneer achievement against a global 
back-set, its splendour of social memory 
shows up in its freshest decline more than in 
its purely symbolical triumph. 

October 1927, was one of these occasions to 
organise public oblivion heeding to symbolical 
achievements. The Soviet amalgamation had 
subsisted for ten years while its opposing 
front-states, carefully pampered up by allied 
trust were all too noticeably drifting towards 
the authoritarian venture of their combined 
attack 1941: Finland and Hungary since 1919, 
Italy since 1923, Poland and coastal 
Chinal926, Germany and Japan following to 


take a preliminary lead in this co-ordinated 
ruling class effort to re-homogenise industrial 
relations across the two continents of the 1917 
Eurasian Social Revolution. October 1927 thus 
was a moment of false triumph in seemingly 
still proletarian Har'kov. Its most sincere 
memory ventures were marked by this long 
drawn-out death of the project under the 
permeating pressure of a world system of 
persisting class rule. 

The Prospects of world revolution which had 
ignited the exceptional courage of Har'kov 
workers 1917 had gone faint, the united 
workers party instead had grown very strong in 
quite a parallel move, now comprising major 
(wo) man-power of the former left Social 
Revolutionaries so indispensable for enforcing 
the 1927 Ukrainisation of Har'kov public life. 
Quite consistently, the Proletarian state had 
finished up with the ridiculous appendix study 
cell of the individualist bourgeois historian. If 
the unified workers party was to be a factory, 
as Antonio Negri tried to reinterpret Lenin in 
the early 1970s, 19 its prominent party Institute 
of History (IstPart) was by no doubt its 
intellectual power plant. This Institute had a 
flamboyant Har'kov based journal (Letopisy 
Revolucji). In a decade of collective, working- 
class memory work, they had elaborated a 
technique of steno graphing evening meetings 
of proletarian agents on evolving historical 


memory. Quite characteristically for a street- 
corner society and its fine discursive 
understanding of dialectics, these talks never 
allowed for a traditionally historicist conclusion 
on "how it really was" 20 in Petrinsky rajon 
1917. When the material need for such a 
further flattening of social memory into 
formalised oblivion arose, it was finally 
delivered not by stenographing proletarian 
discussion evenings but by implementing a 
"short course" on the history of the Bolshevik 
party 21 top-down in a process strangely 
reminiscent of pre-bourgeois manufacturing of 
history. In the heart of Har'kov party life in 
1927, opinions and historically argued material 
interests were still clashing with a fervour 
reminiscent of 1917 street corner decision- 
making. So here is one of the newly-formed 
prejudices on the first defeat of Soviet power 
around the 25 th of March 1918. While German 
and Ukrainian Nationalist Gajdamaki were 
quickly advancing on the town, a joint 
consensus forged in the City's Workers 
Council by partisans of its Menshevik, 
Bolshevik, Jewish Bund and Left Socialist 
Revolutionary fractions had dealt out the order 
to evacuate the industrial copper stocks of the 
town and some machines (in printing, 
locomotive and electrical machine 
construction) north into Soviet rule 
uncontested by Brest Litovsk peace 
arrangements. Comrade Balaban, a Har'kov 


worker admits in the discussion evening 1927 
that "HeKOTopbie pa6oHne 0TKa3anncb ot 
norpy3KM, 3aaBnnn, hto we Bbi Bee yB03MTe, a 
KaK >Ke Mbi 6yfleM paGoTaTb. Torfla HaM 
npnxoflnnocb pa3tacHaTb mm, hto Ha sto 
MfleT pacnopawem/ie CBbiwe. (... some 
workers refused to load, they said, [if] you take 
away everything, how will we be able to [go 
on] work[ing]. At that point, it became 
necessary for us to explain to them, that this 
comes from a command from above.)" 22 There 
is no lie contained in this memory effort. Only 
those workers of Har'kov in spring 1918, 
actually gave a damn about old-style orders 
from above. And about the instance 
stenographed in 1927 with the paternalistic 
condescence towards workers outside the 
party command lines characteristic of 1927 
working class politics on the retreat, we have a 
stenogram of the town's Soviet of the clashes 
accompanying the 1918 retreat. Actually, the 
city's workers council (Soviet) proved to be 
their very own working-class organ of 
organizing their non-party hegemony in town 
politically. So when all 4 party fractions 
subdividing their delegates on the town's level 
soviet would vote against their material 
interest, and time did not allow recalling them 
in time, they would just send new delegates 
from their factory mass meetings to take over 
the proceedings of their organ of power. 
Certainly the leading Bolshevik figure in the 


council, elected by themselves, the stunning 
rhetorical Artem schooled in his Australian 
working-class emigration, backed up by the 
military power of the town's Red Army populist 
Antonov (in fact his bitter rival) issued threats 
of heart-braking ridiculousness. He would 
order to shoot on every peaceful workers' 
demonstration against evacuation at this 
moment. He would not want to hear the factory 
mass meeting delegates in the city's soviet. 
He would not release the two Mensheviks 
elected by the locomotive works for the town's 
soviet from arrest in the night before the 25 th 
March 1918. To be sure, in an earlier drive to 
enforce the socialization of banks houses and 
revolutionary army control the very workers of 
this factory had voted to sent 9 Bolshevik 
delegates alongside the 2 now arrested. But 
the majority they had created among their 
representatives would not stop them from 
exerting their factual power in the town once 
their delegates went beyond their direct 
mandate. So, on the morning of the 25 th March 
the whole locomotive works, 23 with almost 
6000 workers the biggest factory in town and 
with their car (and most modern submarine) 
workshops crucial for the means of transport 
needed for any evacuation was unanimously 
on strike. As long as workers could use the 
party rivalries of the four competing groups in 
the Har'kov Soviet, they could make sure that 
their voice was heard beyond parliamentary 


customary proceedings. Both in the factory of 
Balbanov and in the locomotive works there 
were unanimous demands by the workforce 
put forward in resolutions. Not fulfilling the 
demands, the Soviet could not hope for ending 
their strike. As the first delegate speaker from 
Balbanov's factory mass meeting points out, 
"pe3oniou,i/m He ecTb pe3ynbTaT paGoTOM tom 
i/ini/i i/ihom napTMM, a MHem/ie Bcex paGoHMx. 
(this resolution is not the result of work by one 
or another party, but the opinion of all 
workers." 24 The third speaker is actually 
known as a Bolshevik but his loyalty to the 
factory meeting is evidently more important 
than that: "Bee Maccbi cnnoTnnn Ha oahom b 
cbomx Tpe6oBaHnax. EonbweBi/iKOB He xotat 
cnywaTb, xoTeni/i apecTOBaTb llacTopa, 
KMpKMLua. 9\ npeflnaran 6bi, He pa3flenaacb Ha 
napTMM, peLUMTb Bonpoc 06 yflOBneTBopeHMM 
paGoHMx. (All masses joined in unity for their 
demands. They do not want to listen to 
Bolsheviks, they wanted to arrest Pastor, 
Kirkish. I would propose, without dividing by 
party lines, to solve the question about the 
satisfaction of workersp demands].)" 25 Inspired 
by such a generally shared reverence and 
attention to this morning's workers' opinion, 
the fourth delegate speaker puts their very 
nightmare and dream into a nutshell: "Ecni/i 
TonbKo ueHHbie MeTannbi 6yflyT BbiBe3eHbi b 
iokom 6bi KonwHecTBe, 3aB0fl 6y,qeT 3aKpbiT. 
OcTaBLUMCb 6e3pa6oTHbiMM pa6oHne 


BbiHy>KfleHbi 6yflyT math b KpacHyio apMi/iio. 
Ilofl HanopoM perynapHbix bomck 26 6yqyT 
OTdynaTb Ha ronoflHbiM ceBep. Pa6oHne 
C03HaTenbH0 OTHOcaTca k STOiviy v\ SBaKyaum/i 
He[]npn3HaioT. Pa6oHne BbiHecnw 
onpefleneHHoe nocTaHOBneHwe no STOiviy 
noBOfly (He OflHoro ronoca npoTMB SToro He 
6bino). XapbKOB flon>KeH ocTaBaTbca 

HeMTpanbHOM 30HOM, HT06bl He 6blHO 

norpoMOB m pa3rpoMOB; pa6oHne HacTaMBaioT, 

HTOGbl M3 XapbKOBa He 6blHO BblBe3eHO hm[ 

]KoneMKM, hm oflHoro rB03fl?i. 3Haa, KaK 
nocTbiflHo 6e>Kano Hm<onaeBCKi/iM coBeT, 
pa6oHne HacToaTenbHo TpeGyeT, HTo6bi 
Bo>KflM, ocoGeHHo KpaMHMe neBbie, flon>KHbi 
ocTaTbca 3flecb: nycTb nepe>KMBaiOT Tpareflwo 
BMecTe c pa6oHMMM. ([already] when only 
valuable metals are evacuated in whatever 
quantity, our plant will be closed. After being 
made unemployed workers will be forced to 
join the Red Army. Under the pressure of 
regular military forces they will retreat up into 
the hungry north. Workers consciously relate 
to this [scenario] and [therefore] reject 
evacuation. Workers carried a definite decision 
in regard to this (there was no not one 
dissenting vote on this). Khar'kov must remain 
a neutral zone so that there will be no 
pogroms and crushing defeats; so workers 
insist that from Kharkov it would not be 
exported neither a kopeck nor one nail. 
Knowing, how shamefully the Nikolaevskij 


council fled, workers imperatively require that 
the leaders, the especially the extreme Left 
once, must remain here: let them suffer the 
tragedy together with the workers.)" 27 The 
following speakers show that the formula of 
workers power has indeed permeated any 
government over the town in an ubiquitous 
sense. One is from the workers within the 
Peoples court ("ot cnywamwx Hap[oflHoro] 
cyfla"), one from the representation of workers 
in trade and industrial administrative entities 
and one (outing himself as a party member as 
well, a Menshevik) from the bank workers 
organization. The actual result of the debate is 
a compromise followed by a fatal defeat of all 
positions voiced. So, from our newly isolated 
historians' viewpoints, we can either classify all 
of them as naive or else none. Let us try 
where we get if there were nothing naive 
about this Har'kov workers' morning dream on 
the 25 th March 1918. Their beloved town of 
workers' hegemony is to remain neutral in an 
ongoing World War fought with its weapons 
and about its weapons (the lack of copper for 
the German army, especially their submarines, 
is well known in Moscow, i.e. the call from 
above, the only element Balbanov remembers 
about the development ten years later). 
Har'kov workers had succeeded to redistribute 
the added value accumulated by their highly 
war relevant productive activities. To produce 
for the frontlines in the 4 th year already had 


saved many of them from conscription in all 
the deadly months before. They new precisely 
that resigning from this privilege, they would 
loose their power again. Equally, they had a 
distinct notion that the new political class, 
which had been temporarily at their service, 
could reconstitute its power learnt in Har'kov 
on a different geographical basis within 
revolutionary Russia. Their only vision of 
mobility saw them degraded to soldiers, i.e. 
ultimately ripped of their tools and their factory 
context which had constituted their material 
basis of empowerment during the preceding 
months. In the end, they lost their power 
differently. The little fraction of loyal Bolshevik 
party soldiers in the workforce evakuated tiny 
parts of their factories with no more than 3 per 
cent of the workforce in desperate transport 
trains under German army fire, ultimately 
returning to Har'kov beaten up and with 
nothing left in their hands. History is a treasure 
of possibilities. The dream of Har'kov 
remaining as neutral and polydiscursive as it 
has been from October 1917 to March 1918 
and thus realizing the socialization of industry, 
banks and flats plus heaviest taxation of the 
rich could have become a reality in a slightly 
different context or with slightly different 
dynamics arising within the town. But who can 
memorise the full scope of such maybe utterly 
non-naive dream with social memory distorted 
by so many defeats in the following? Reading 


thousands and thousands of such stenograms 
more than 90 years afterwards, I retain most 
memorisable, the words spoken in the Soviet 
assembly by speakers oppositional to the red- 
Army backed Bolshevik block but sharing their 
radical class perspective in highly critical 
solidarity. Zhivov, is a worker from Gelferikh- 
Sade, the factory shelled to surrender in the 
revolution of 1905. 28 He is recorded by his 
Bolshevik party enemies as a Socialist 
Revolutionary and Maksimalist. On 25 th of 
March, he correctly points out that the night 
arrests, violating the previously agreed 
immunity of Menshevik delegates are in fact a 
"Bonwommvi HapyujeHMeM npaB coBeTa. 
BonbLueBMKM c nepBbix flHew, Korfla CTarm 
3ami/imaTb BnacTb coBeTOB, Ha npaKTMKe 
ocymecTBrmioT BnacTb hhhhoctm. (blatant 
violation of the rights of the Soviet. From the 
first days onwards, Bolsheviks when 
protectponsing real] Soviet power, practically 
promoted the power of [charismatic] 
personality.)" 29 He sharply analyses among his 
own workmates that „b flaHHOM cnynae 
paGoHMM KnaccoM oBnaflen HM3MeHHbiM 
mhctmhkt - ronofl [-] m pa6oHMe cTanM He Ha 
KnaccoByio TOHKy 3peHi/m a Ha TOHKy 3peHi/m 
ceroflHaLUHero[ ]flHa. (In this [specific] case 
working class was submitted to a low [and] 
unchangeable instinct - hunger [-] and workers 
stood not down the class point of view but on 
the [shortsighted] viewpoint of today's day. 30 " 


He then continues to ask, what the class- 
based workers' soviet is to do when the 
founders leave their larger sense of class- 
consciousness apart on a certain day. And he 
draws from collective memories of past conflict 
solution: ",qon>KHbi npwHflTb Mepbi ktomv, hto 
HacTpoeHbi, oxBaTMBLuee pa6onnx 
M3MeHnnocb. (we must take measures that 
dispose that the mood of workers changes). 31 " 
His own party comrade, the Socialist 
Revolutionary Bukreev calls Zhivov back, 
protesting that (to his memory) the working 
class (he knows) cannot be bought over. 
But Zhivov specifies correctly "a He roBopio 
npo pa6oHeM Knacce, a o 
napoB030CTpoi/iTenbHbiM 3aB0fle (I do not 
make statements about the working class [in 
general], but I speak about the [specific case] 
of the locomotive factory)" 32 . And in a truly 
Maximalist manner, he reasons that workers 
power has to: "flaT Bee to hto TpeGyeT 
pa6oHMM. H ecni/i HeT cpeflCTBa - B3?n~b mx y 
6yp>Kya3MM. IIotom pa6oHne noMMyT cbok) 
KnaccoByio oujn6Ky. (concede all that workers 
demand. And if there are not sufficient means 
[for that] - to take them from the bourgeoisie. 
Then workers will understand their error in 
terms of class.)" 33 As if to prove the fatal truth 
of Zhivov's analysis that Personal cult hollows 
out real Soviet power, the Bolshevik frontman 
Artem takes up this oppositional hint in 
another session at that same day and 


promises against the right side of the workers' 
council and to the manifest enthusiasm of its 
left that the double of the workers' demand for 
advance wages will be expropriated from 
burgers still populating the city by force of 
arms. So, it is the Jewish writing worker 
Shtern, member of the Bund fraction in the 
Har'kov Soviet, who puts the most prophetic 
thoughts of that day into spoken Russian. He 
reminds about the very making of the workers' 
revolution in Har'kov during the preceding six 
months: "HeywenM 6bi caMM 3a6binn o 
HacTpoem/mx, KOTopbie 6binn Ha 3aB0flax. 
HeflaBHo eme b stot coBeT pa6onne nocnann 

flByX MeHbLUeBMKOB M fleCflTb 6onbLUeBMKOB. 

Tfle >Ke pa6oHne[?] nonMTMKa aBamiop 
OTTonKHyna Maccbi. 3flecb npon30Luno 
Heflopa3yivieHMe. Bbi 0Lun6aeTecb. Maccbi 
MflyT He 3a MeHbLueBMKaMM. Hawa pe3onK)i4na 
6bina OTBepmyTa. Maccbi MflyT He 3a HaMi/i. 
Hy>KHO He 3aKpbiBaTb ma3a - ohm MflyT He 3a 
KeM-To TpeTbiM. Bbi yMfleTe, ho ocTaBnaeTe 

HaM HaCfieflCTBO, no KOTOpOM MO>KeT BbipaCTM 

ceMHac BefleTe k rM6enM peBoniouMK) m Mbi 
flon>KHbi npeflynpeflMTb." (Have you really 
forgotten yourselves about the mood, which 
was in the factories? Only recently, workers 
have sent two Mensheviks and ten Bolsheviks 
to this soviet council. Where are the workers 
[now?] The policy of adventures repelled the 
masses. A misunderstanding occurred here. 


You are wrong. The masses do not go with the 
Mensheviks. Our [own] resolution was rejected 
[as well]. The masses do not go with us 
[either]. It is necessary not to shut our eyes - 
they do not go with any third [party]. You will 
go away, but you leave to us the inheritance, 
on which a black-hundred flower 
[anti revolutionary fascism] might grow [as after 
the revolution of 1905]. Actually, you now lead 
the revolution to failure and it is our duty to 
issue a [strong] warning." The Jewish writer 
Shtern warns from a point of view which was 
later co-opted as the Bund influx into the 
Unitarian Communist party. His testimony may 
be seen as a spark or a ferment of genuinely 
class-conscious memory from the rich and 
manifold history of working-class Har'kov. Such 
insight expressed in spoken words, foreboding the 
defeat of 1927, 1936, 1941 and 1991 with almost 
somnambular clairvoyance, normally do not 
survive changes of class hegemony. Yet, these 
words spoken into the panic of the first in a row of 
defeat lingering over the young Soviet town 
actually did happen to survive within a pile of 
stenographic pencil notes. In the hush of birthday 
preparations for October 1927, these notes were 
belatedly contracted to be finally transcribed with 
public money. Ironically enough, it needed the 
isolated digging work of a late bourgeois historian 
to actually put them into the public domain, 82 
years later. Is there any living memory left, any 
memory that matters, which could relate to such 
hidden transcripts 34 ? 


1 Here in the rather free and slightly simplifying 2006 
translation by Khazar Danm, the earlier 2001 translation 
by Dennis Redmond, is closer to the German wording 
"The true picture of the past whizzes by. Only as a 
picture, which flashes its final farewell in the moment of 
its recognisability, is the past to be held fast. "The truth 
will not run away from us" - this remark by Gottfried 
Keller denotes the exact place where historical 
materialism breaks through historicism's picture of 
history. For it is an irretrievable picture of the past, 
which threatens to disappear with every present, which 
does not recognize itself as meant in it. The true picture 
of the past flits by." The German source text ("Das 
wahre Bild der Vergangenheit huscht vorbei. Nur als 
Bild, das auf Nimmerwiedersehen im Augenblick seiner 
Erkennbarkeit eben aufblitzt, ist die Vergangenheit 
festzuhalten. 'Die Wahrheit wird uns nicht davonlaufen' 
- dieses Wort, das von Gottfried Keller stammt, 
bezeichnet im Geschichtsbild des Historismus genau 
die Stelle, an der es vom historischen Materialism us 
durchschlagen wird. Denn es ist ein unwiederbringliches 
Bild der Vergangenheit, das mit jeder Gegenwart zu 
verschwinden droht, die sich nicht als in ihm gemeint 
erkannte.") was first published after the suicide of the 
author in Mimeographie, Walter Benjamin zum 
Gedachtnis, Los Angeles (Institut fuer Sozialforschung) 
1942, pages 1-6 in the collected works as Walter 
Benjamin, "Ober den Begriff der Geschichte", in: 
Gesctmmelte Schriften, Vol. 1-2, Frankfurt/M. (Surkamp) 
1991, page 695. 

2 The two juxtapositions of quality within collective 
amalgamation of memory are described by Ludwik 
Fleck "Cognitive Collectives" as opposed to Chomsky's 
critique of manufactured consent. For a bibliography 
and introductory materials on Fleck's philosophy, see 
Robert S. Cohen, Thomas Schnelle (Hrsg.): Cognition 
and fact - Materials on Ludwik Fleck, Dordrecht (D.- 
Reidel-Verlag) 1986, pages 445^157. 


3 Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky identify 3 
major filters at the command of owners of the means of 
production in Manufacturing Consent: The Political 
Economy of the Mass Media, New York (Pantheon 


4 Of course the association of working class districts and 
the east side of a town (where the gas emissions of coal 
powered industrialisation reduced the life span of its 
poorer inhabitants) is out for commoditisation in post- 
orange Har'kov just as in the classic case documented 
by Christopher Mele, Selling the Lower East Side: 
Culture, Real Estate, and Resistance in New York City, 
Minneapolis (University of Minnesota Press) 2000. 

5 Riccardo Fubini, L' umanesimo italiano e i suoi storici. 
Origini rinascimentali, critica moderna, Roma, Milano 
(FrancoAngeli) 2001 reed. 2005. 

For the close tie between amalgamation and 
workers' controll compare David Montgomery. "The Fall 
of the House of Labor: The Workplace, the State, and 
American Labor Activism, 1865-1925, New York (Press 
Syndicate of the University of Cambridge) 1987. 

7 The humorous quote on "folk dance competition" is 
contextualised with the longue-duree of regional class 
conflict in the third chapter of Georgi M. Derluguian, 
Bourdieu's Secret Admirer in the Caucasus 

A World-System Biography, Chicago (University of 
Chicago Press) 2005. 

8 Akram Fouad Khater, Inventing Home, Emigration, 
Gender, and the Middle Class in Lebanon, 1870-1920, 
Berkeley, Los Angeles, London (University of California 
Press) 2001. 

9 Analysing the historical filters of a "middle class" 
hegemony in the making, Chad Bryant, "Whose 
Nation?: Czech Dissidents and History Writing from a 
Post-1989 Perspective", in: History & Memory - Volume 
12, Number 1, Spring/Summer 2000, pages 30-64. 


10 The notion is key sociological classic of participatory 
observation: William Foote Whyte, Street Corner 
Society: The Social Structure of an Italian Slum, 
Chicago (University Press) 1943. 

11 DAHO (Har'kov) fond Part. 10, opis 1- delo 445. 

12 Discussing the showdown at Gelferikh-Sade with a 
different priority Michael F. Hamm, "On the perimeter of 
revolution: Kharkiv's academic community, 1905", in: 
Revolutionary Russia, Volume 15, Issue 1 June 2002 , 
pages 45 - 68, here 54-60. 

DAHO (Har'kov) fond Part. 10, opis 1- delo 445: list 

14 flMMTpnii BopucoBMH riaBnoB. Pa6o^ee 
onno3uu,uoHHoe deuxetiue e 6o/ibLueeucmcKou 
Poccuu. 1918 a. Co6paHUfi yno/iHOMoneHHbix <pa6puK u 
3aeodoe. /JoKyMetimbi u Mamepua/ibi, MocKBa 
(l/taflaTenbCTBO PoccnticKafl nonnTMHecKaa 
3Hi4MKnoneflMfl) 2006. 

15 On 24 th September 2008, the United Nations' Human 
Rights Council witnessed the official withdrawal of 
resolution A/HRC/9/L.4 "Remembrance of the 
Holodomor of 1932-1933 in Ukraine" by the 
governmental representative of Ukraine and the one 
and only Western supporter of the aborted resolution, 
the present-day monarchical feudatory of Monaco. 

16 The non-fiction accounts by Steinbeck from the 1930s 
in the United States have much of the materials 
produced by two decades of official state research into 
"Death by Hunger" in Har'kov. "The county hospital has 
no room for measles, mumps, whooping cough; and yet 
these are often deadly to hunger-weakened children. 
And although we hear much about the free clinics for 
the poor, these people do not know how to get the aid 
and they do not get it. Also, since most of their dealings 
with authority are painful to them, they prefer not to take 
the chance. This is the squatters' camp. Some are a 
little better, some much worse. I have described some 
typical families." cited from Susan Shillinglaw and 


Jackson J Benson (editors). From Of Men and Their 
Making: The Non-Fiction Of John Steinbeck, London 
(Penguin) 2002; compare James N.Gregory "Dust Bowl 
Legacies: the Okie Impact on California, 1939-1989." 
California History 1989 68(3), pages 74-85. 
17 "Two Drivers Mr. K, asked about the approach of two 
theatre directors, compared them as follows: 'I know a 
driver who has the traffic regulations in his fingertips, 
obeys them, and is able to use them to his own benefit. 
He is skilful at racing forward and then maintaining a 
normal speed again, going easy on the engine, and thus 
he makes his way carefully and boldly between the 
other vehicles. Another driver I know proceeds 
differently. Even more than in his own route he is 
interested in the traffic as a whole and he regards 
himself as a mere particle of the latter. He does not take 
advantage of his rights and does not make himself 
especially conspicuous. In spirit he is driving with the 
car in front of him and the car behind him, with constant 
pleasure in the progress of every vehicle and the 
pedestrians as well.'" in: Bertolt Brecht, Stories of Mr. 
Keuner [Translated by Martin Chalmers] San Francisco 
(City Lights Books) 2001, page 55. 

8 Stefan Zeromski, Przedwiosnie, Warszawa, Krakow 
(Wydawnictwo Mortkowicza), 1925. 

9 Antonio Negri, Trentatre lezioni su Lenin. Roma 
("Editore Manifestolibri) 2008. The Spanish edition 
curiously cites the Lenin quotes essential to the 
argument in the Italian edition of some selected (not the 
collected) works. Facilitating at least access to Lenin's 
original writings, though the editor does not care for too 
much to refer to tham beyond the evident label value 
involved: Lenin, V. I. and Slavoj Zizek (Afterword, 
Editor, Introduction). Revolution at the Gates: Selected 
Writings of Lenin from 1917. New York (Verso) 2004. 

20 The founding doctrine of historicism as included in the 
polemic "You have reckoned that history ought to judge 
the past and to instruct the contemporary world as to 


the future. The present attempt does not yield to that 
high office. It will merely tell how it really was. " From 
"Zur Kritik neuerer Geschichtschreiber (critique of 
modern historical writing)", in: Leopold von Ranke, 
Geschichte der romanischen und germanischen Volker 
von 1494 bis 1514. Berlin 1824. 
21 Effective only 10 years later as Mocucp 
BuccapuoHoeun dani/m, Mcmopun Bcecoto3Hou 
KOMMyHucmw-iecKou napmuu (6o/ibLueeuKoe). KpamKuu 
Kypc, Moskva 1938. 

DAHO (Har'kov) fond Part. 10, opis 1- delo 23, list 
37. 1927 "cTeHorpawiMa 3ace,qaHHfl - Benep 
BocnoMMHaHMM rpynnbi ynacTHHKOB n e p e Bopoi e 

{OKTfl6pbCKOM peBOJ"IK)U.l/ll/l} H 3BaKyaU.HH 1/13 xapbKOBa 6 

1917 m 1918 r.r. (Stenograpraphic record of the memory 
evening with participants in the turning ov e r of 
gov e rnm e nt {overwritten with : October Revolution} and 
evacuation from Har'kov in the years 1917 and 1918." 

23 Producing about 20% of the entire Imperial Russian 
locomotive machinery. 

24 DAHO (Har'kov) fond Part. 10, opis 1- delo 240, list 
188. Stenograpic record of 25th March 1918. 

25 DAHO (Har'kov) fond Part. 10, opis 1- delo 240, list 

26 Tkachenko still sees the Red Army_ as an irregular 

27 DAHO (Har'kov) fond Part. 10, opis 1- delo 240, list 

28 Donald J. Raleigh has been able to researched the 
fate of the 10% independent-minded Har'kov 
"Bolsheviks" who accompanied the factory to its 
evacuation destiny in Saratov. Summarising their 
Saratov stance, he relates with an indicative disinterest 
to detail for this case, that they "refused to subordinate 
themselves to the soviet, and instead established their 
own 'republic' a term that had become a metaphor for 
the voluntary nature of all power relationships... discord 
between Bolsheviks from Ukraine and their local 


comrades resulted in Moscow's intervention in Saratov 
affairs", cited from Experiencing Russia's Civil War: 
Politics, Society, and Revolutionary Culture in Saratov, 
1917-1922, Princeton (University Press) 2002, pages 
189, 190, quote from page 190. . 

29 DAHO (Har'kov) fond Part. 10, opis 1- delo 240, list 

30 DAHO (Har'kov) fond Part. 10, opis 1- delo 240, list 

31 DAHO (Har'kov) fond Part. 10, opis 1- delo 240, list 

32 DAHO (Har'kov) fond Part. 10, opis 1- delo 240, list 

33 DAHO (Har'kov) fond Part. 10, opis 1- delo 240, list 

34 Compare the extensively subjectivist stance opening 
the debate on "hidden transcripts in James C. Scott, 
Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden 
Transcripts, Newhaven (Yale University Press) 1990.